The Rev. Daniel Aldridge has had a front row seat at many historic events in Detroit. His civil rights credentials as an activist and advocate are resplendent. In the parlance of the American black experience, he is called an elder in the movement for social and economic justice in a city that played a major role in the civil rights era.
Aldridge, a retired United Church of Christ minister and former aide to the late Mayor Coleman A. Young, was the lead organizer of the Algiers Tribunal — a community court — that was set up to try the white police officers accused in the killing of three African-American teens inside the Algiers Motel during the 1967 social unrest. The people’s court was thought necessary to uncover what truly happened inside the motel after a courtroom jury failed to convict the officers in question.
But that was not what Aldridge came to talk about at a Sept. 21 symposium to reflect on the lessons of 1967 held at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College District.
Instead, he brought with him a message for black men to stop the killing of black women. He told his audience that the black-on-black carnage is of paramount concern, and that it is time to attack the issue alongside the fight against racism and discrimination.
“The black community needs a long-term, two-pronged strategy that is both external and internal. The entire community must work and struggle against anti-black racism and female violence with the same tenacity that we have worked and fought against racism,” Aldridge said. “Black freedom and justice are fictions if they do not include gender equity and justice, and freedom from anti-female oppression and violence.”
Aldridge said if the black community must be liberated from the clutches of oppression, “black men must be challenged to confront this embarrassing and very difficult issue. Gender justice takes its place next to racial justice if we are to seriously continue our match for justice for all our people and others.”
The call to attack black-on-black crime is nothing new. It has been debated before and some black conservatives have always used it to call the black community to moral reckoning. But they are easily dismissed on the grounds that they have no moral standing on the issue because they are not viewed by some as ardent supporters of civil rights causes.
What needs to happen now is the emergence of more strong voices like Aldridge to weigh in on the issue. Because very few voices from inside the civil rights community have given this issue the kind of platform that Aldridge believes it now deserves. And it is commendable to see people like him tackle it head on.
That, perhaps, explains why there was ruminative silence at the forum when he challenged the conscience of those in attendance to put an effective searchlight on an issue that is often treated as a taboo in the community.
“Racism and sexism are both serious problems ... in the black community. I do not place one of them above or below the other. We must seriously engage them both,” Aldridge counseled. “I have one son and two daughters. It is inconceivable to me that one could want more for their sons than they want for their daughters. I want our sons and our daughters to live free from violence and become all that they can become, enjoying all of the fruits of life.”
But if this problem is to be seriously tackled, Aldridge said it must be kept where it rightfully belongs — next to the quest for racial justice.
That is nothing but the undeniable truth. And as the good book says, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
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